Displaced Matriarchs

Could you recommend any good books to me to highlight what happens to displaced matriarchs? I don’t mean actual royalty. I mean strong women who suddenly aren’t in the roles they’ve filled for years. Retired pastor wives can be a solid example!

Think about it. Write about it! This is another shared writing idea!

A LOT could be said about how we can deal with nastiness. Entire libraries. Most specifically, right now I’m curious about understanding and dealing with those who are used to forms of deference but suddenly are without respect or consideration.

I am a pastor’s wife. I am not writing with any retired pastor’s wife in mind, although I’ve heard horror stories about PWs being asked to stop all leadership or volunteer work at a husband’s retirement. Instead, I just think more and more people seem entitled. I wonder if there are lessons we can learn to help transition during, you know, entitlement meeting brutal reality. Maybe the experience is a little like displaced matriarchs. And, maybe we should be mindful of that.

To be honest, I want to grow up to be a family matriarch. I want my recipes passed down. I want to help plan menus, accommodations, etc. But I suspect there are many smaller kingdoms people plan reign.

Where do you want respect? Deference? Entitlement? (I’m not too proud to admit that I like titles! ;))

How can we write characters with matriarchal aspirations? How can we let them down in a humane way?!

Anyway, throwing a few writing ideas out to you. 🙂 Feel free to comment with profound advice on any of the assorted topics mentioned in this post! ha ha

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4 Comments

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4 Responses to Displaced Matriarchs

  1. Deon Hull

    I don’t know of specific titles but there must be something helpful concerning Katie Luther. That may be a place to start.

    My experiences with Pastor’s wives are varied. Some have been completely hands off, in that they have their own career and take care of the family. Others have raised the family without having a career outside of the home. Others have been the organist/ DCE/ teacher/ whatever else needed to be done.

    I don’t envy the life of a Pastor’s wife. As to the deposed matriarch, I was confused. Inside the family? church? community? What vocation is the frame of reference?
    A more secular example may be Barbara Bush or the matriarch of the Kennedy clan.
    I apologize that this is not very helpful in that I have no answers, only more questions. Maybe they will lead to clarity.

    • I think sometimes after a pastor has retired, a congregation–or an incoming pastor’s wife–can expect some sort of retirement or big change from the retired pastor’s wife in her congregational activities. But, I mean, she’s a different person than her husband. She hasn’t necessarily changed, but I’ve sadly heard younger pastors and their wives expect retired clergy families to just up and move away. Obviously, people don’t particularly move away from their families, or their homes, just because of retirement, but, shrug, some have expectations.

      Expectations and entitlement. I bet that’s what I should think about next. 🙂 Thanks for your comment and helping me think things through!

  2. Deon Hull

    Mary:
    I have heard those comments too, and I can understand how that could be painful. In the suburban churches, where a retired Pastor could have the option to attend a different church but stay in the community it may be possible to disconnect from the congregation without moving. In the rural church I can see where this may cause undue hardship. I think that we have probably 4 retired Pastors in our congregation but we are suburban. If you have raised a family, as you are, in a rural area your kids may be more likely to stay in that area and you would want to continue to be a part of their lives and live near them. That would include participating in the worship life of the local congregation.

    Retirement represents change (a very non- Lutheran word) and therefore people are afraid of what they will lose in the change. Fortunately, retirement is a planned change and with careful consideration of the retiring family and the congregation they are retiring from, a succession plan could be formulated and enacted that respects both parties.

    I had someone that I respect tell me that it isn’t what we retire from but what we retire to that makes all the difference in the world. By the time Pastors get to retirement age they need a break from their typical workload and are freed up to follow a new vocation that may or may not involve Word and Sacrament ministry. Thinking creatively about what possibilities are “out there” and leaving some others to take over the roles that you have filled that would get in the way of what you want to do is freeing instead of scary.

    I know some Pastors and wives that have the freedom to travel and support their favorite RSO by representing them at different gatherings and conferences. Another couple that had been Lutheran teachers travel to a winter destination in Florida and volunteer at the Lutheran schools in the area. The real question is how you will live out your vocation as a retiree.

    Even though the Pastor’s wife is a completely different person, the members of the congregation may see the Pastor and wife as a team. This is very positive in some respects and negative in others. I am sure that you have encountered this yourself in that role although I hope not the negative so much.

    The congregation members will have an adjustment period where they have to learn who the new Pastor is. I would think that without a clean separation it would be difficult for the congregation to not turn to “their Pastor” when it came to official acts such as funerals, weddings, hospital visits etc. A new Pastor, especially a young Pastor, could be intimidated by a popular Pastor who didn’t ever really leave. I can’t think of an exception in my own congregational experience where there hasn’t been an underground grumbling concerning the way “our Pastor used to do things.” Many times the Pastor had taken a call and moved far away but still got emails and letters about the perceived incompetency of the new Pastor. Unfortunately, if the Pastor retired and the wife continued to be active I could see her becoming the conduit for some of these messages. I don’t know how I would handle being pressured by parishioners to tattle on the new Pastor.

    I am not a Pastor but I have felt the sting of being taken to the wood shed for the crime of thinking out loud about directions we might want to take a ministry to increase the reach and scope. It was perceived as disloyalty to the previous administration and I was called on the carpet to explain myself to people who were no longer connected in a formal and official manner. I had violated their sense of nostalgia and was threatening their legacy. I didn’t know it at the time and only came to understand this in reflection guided by a caring mentor.

    I am interested to get your reaction and reflections on Ministry succession from the view of the involved wife in a rural setting. How would you see it playing out in a way that builds the body in that place.
    Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

  3. To me so much of it boils down to entitlement. If a pastor removes himself from his call, for retirement or for whatever other reason, he has to limit himself. It would be a temptation for him to pretend to be pastor. Even though he is still ordained, he is simply not the congregation’s pastor.

    There are always temptations for people to look toward those who are not their pastor. As though the Internet or the past can serve in that role. Congregations need to be taught better about the Office of the Ministry. That could solve a whole HOST of problems!

    If a pastor own a house, I think it’s ludicrous to presume he and his family will move away. Frankly, I think it’s asking a whole lot to no longer attend the same church–all those years of relationships as well as probably continuing family involvement. There is no divine call “move away to make things easier.” There just isn’t. Freedom, yes. But others are not entitled to have their own expectations fulfilled.

    I get that people do things to try to make smooth transitions. I don’t begrudge the goodness of that intention. But doesn’t it also at times feed entitlement? Again, why aren’t our congregations better taught about this stuff?

    Whether people fight against change or fight for it, the “enemy” is not really the men and women for whom Christ died, but the entitlement that tempts them at every turn. Right? So how does the church respond to entitlement? Law and Gospel. Or that is how it should be. I really fear that how we gloss over temptation is building entitlement and creating layers of complicated problems.

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